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Parents of ADHD Children

Frustrated and not alone, right?

I am having SO many problems with my son and his school. He is 7 years old and in 1st grade. His teacher claims to have 2 young boys who are ADHD and she also claims that she taught Special Education classes before moving on to First Grade classes.

He’ll start off a school year great, then we will let slip to the teacher that he has ADHD and the notes start pouring in. When we don’t get a bad note, we think, hey, he had a good day. Then she told us at a parent teacher conference, some times she forgets or that there isn’t enough time to write in the things he had trouble with in his planner, but that there IS an issue every day.

We asked about any kind of accommodations that will help him stay on task and she cuts us off and says “Tried it with my kids, didn’t work.” or “We can try that, but I guarantee it will be a waste of time.” When she especially gets frustrated, the “Have you heard back from the doctor on medication?” notes start coming home! I am SO frustrated! I just don’t understand! Where is the compassion for our children?

Out of the entire school year, I think she sent home 2 notes that highlighted something positive he did in school that day. And now she is sending home the work he doesn’t finish in school, saying we have to complete it as homework and turn it in the next day because he “refused to do any school work.” I wonder, is that the case?

He is specifically having problems with writing exercises. IE, she gives you a topic and you have to write 5 sentences including an intro sentence, 3 detail sentences and a conclusion sentence. He can sit down doing his homework and be stuck on the first word for two hours. I was wondering if any of you have had any experience with Dysgraphia? I was reading online that it is very often related to ADHD.

Does anyone have any tools or accommodation that work at home or at school to help with the homework/classroom experience? Does anyone have any suggestions what we could do differently with the school or at home??? I am absolutely at my wits end! I do not want to have to medicate him just because his teacher has NO patience.


Writing is very difficult for children with ADHD.  Sometimes just getting started and organizing their thoughts is hard.  I had such similar experiences to yours, I can so relate.

I had my son tell me what he wanted to say.  It is much easier for him to tell me out loud and then write it down.  I’m not sure if that will work for you or not.

You can request an evaluation from your school, to try to get an IEP or a 504 Plan.  An IEP or 504 Plan will require your school to make accomodations for your son.  There are many others on this list who can give you better advice than I for how to get that done.

Have you tried talking to the principal or to the Special Ed teacher in the school?  Perhaps they can give you some ideas or options.

Good luck!

Posted by cmullen17 on Apr 02, 2014 at 5:50pm

Well, the reason to medicate is for the child’s benefit. It was something I felt opposed to when my son was that age and he was first diagnosed, but I came to the realization that he really, really needs it in order to function and exercise the kind of control expected of him.

I whole heartedly sympathize with you and was in the exact same position when my son was that age. He had a teacher in 2nd grade that resorted to yelling at him and he’s still scarred from it. My poor little fella. We pulled him out mid-year and put him in public school where he was much better off. We couldn’t understand why the school was being so harsh and would not wait for us to get the situation figured out. But they wouldn’t. It was horrible and heartbreaking. So, I know exactly how you feel.

Once we did put him on medication the teachers said it was ‘like night and day’ as far as his behavior goes. He cannot focus, maintain control, remember anything whatsoever, without being medicated.

Bottom line to me, it’s a medical condition that needs to be treated like anything else we would treat our children for. It’s like the hearing aid or brail for another child. They have to have it, at least in a majority of the cases. The brain is not functioning as effectively without being treated and we cannot expect these children to control their symptoms, especially with the maturity delay, without it. It’s not fair to anyone.

So while it is NOT OK for his teacher to be so negative, it is important to talk to your son’s pediatrician aspa about options. These medications have been used for years and years, are effective and safe.

My heart goes out to you completely, but start with medication first and then see how your son’s behavior does. Best of luck!

Posted by Havebeenthere on Apr 02, 2014 at 8:37pm

Well, it sounds a lot like typical ADHD symptoms, not necessarily a learning disability, which you can ask the school to test him for.  If you would like to start the process of testing ask the teacher now, because it can take a while.  ADHD in itself is not considered a learning disability, because it isn’t.  It is an implementing disability.  But you should, just to be safe, see if there is a learning disability along with his ADHD and that the school will accommodate.

If she is telling you that the accommodations you want won’t work why are you not believing her?  You sound very frustrated obviously but be careful to not make the teacher the enemy.  There is NO enemy in this situation, as much as we human beings like to have others to fight, this is not a fight situation.  And in fact the more you fight your teachers and school the less good experience you will have with them.  Have you asked the teacher what would work for your son?

I can tell you what helped my daughter before meds.  She was in K and 1st without meds and I remember the homework misery that ensued!  She absolutely never read in K, never.  Refused.  This happens.  It is fight or flight.  Their little brains cannot handle the stress of the situation so they shut down because they can’t fight you all, you are adults!  Although he might fight with you.  All it means is he is running into difficulty with something - not that he “doesn’t get it” or hasn’t learned it, but that his brain is not adhering to the page in order to get it done.

So here is what did work. 
—Snack!  Protein please, it was like misery without one!
—For his age, 10 minutes of homework, 5 minutes of break.  Use a timer but not where he can see it or he will watch it, where he can hear it is fine.
—If he gets really squirley you might play run around the house.  This worked great for both my kids when they were little (even my non ADHD kid).  If they are really struggling to focus and sit still you suddenly ring a bell or sound a horn, some fun sound, and say it is run around the house time for one minute.  Then, YOU included, run around the house waving your arms, laughing, dancing, whatever until one minute is done then right back to homework.  It also worked well for celebrations, like celebrating one line of math problems completed.
—Whatever homework is the most difficult, do that first.  Kids with ADHD have a very small focus tank and he needs that for what he has the most difficulty with.
—Break homework into sections.  So if there was a math sheet that had to be done I would fold it in half or fourths or as small as I could so she was only seeing on the page three or four problems at a time.  Tell the teacher you are doing this and ask if he can do this at school.  I actually got this from a teacher and it works wonders.  The ADHD brain just sees a whole sheet of problems and freezes, so the less stressful the visuals the better.
—If you can have him tested or can do a test online (you might ask the school for a resource) find out what is his learning style.  My daughter’s is spacial mostly so getting her out of her seat and talking through a math problem with blocks helped tremendously.  And with reading, which was her giant hurdle, she didn’t buy in until, ironically, we got a dog.  Dogs her favorite thing.  Suddenly we have a dog (a three dimensional object - spacial) which she really wants to learn more about and observe what she learns so she is motivated to read.  The first book she ever read without me reading it to her or outright force her to was a dog book - in 2nd grade!  It can help you to help them if you know how best he learns.

And don’t totally count out meds, particularly if you are doing it in reaction to the teacher suggesting it (again you have to stop fighting her).  Find out more about them.  There are lots of places to get information and as you do your research on ADHD - which you should be doing - you will find out more about them.  When administered properly, conservatively, by a psychiatrist (NOT NOT NOT your pediatrician!  Good lord it is a brain drug get a brain expert.  So many parents have bad experiences with medications I suspect because they are going to a general practitioner for something highly specific) there is nothing to be really worried about.  I know, I too was re-luc-tant! I dug in my heels like you can’t believe.  But when they told me again at the end of 1st (as they had at the end of K) that my daughter needed to be held back a grade because she was not testing well I knew I had to try.  We lucked out with a great pediatric psychiatrist off the bat who is very conservative and follows my lead about meds, no pressuring to increase dose or going by any book, she is medicating my child as she needs, not by what a manual says.  She takes into consideration school work and behavior, home and behavior there, she asks her many questions every time we see her and she weighs her each and every time.  We are on the lowest possible dose and a booster and I have had a lot of success with the school in administering her booster in the afternoon.

So, don’t totally discount drugs.  The above suggestions can help a lot.  Every assist works better with medication in place.  But there is a lot you can do to help your son outside of meds - you will have to give these assists on or off meds anyway so might as well start.  And observe, be creative, have some fun with your child as you are moving him to what you want him to do - this I’ve found is the best way to get cooperation from an ADHD child and quickly!

Posted by YellaRyan on Apr 02, 2014 at 11:27pm

The above responses have said it all.  Take a breath, regroup, and begin with the above suggestions.

I’m now going through this for the second time having gotten my 8 yr old on track:  meds (a lot of trial and error), behavior therapy, tutoring.

Now my six yr old has just been diagnosed with ADHD combined type with sensory processing disorder.  Completely different from first son.  I have to go through this all over again.  It’s rough, but it’s about your child.  Don’t give up—I have to remind myself of this a lot.  Good luck!

Posted by Pdxlaura on Apr 03, 2014 at 1:22am

Thanks so much for all of your responses! I love the suggestions and can not wait to try some of them out, some of them I didn’t even think of before!

I would like to say, I am not fighting the teacher. I am working on getting better insurance that will cover medication for my son. The problem I am having with the teacher is that nothing I have suggested is being considered. Instead of exploring other options that might make the learning process easier for him until we can get him medication and even after, I just get “won’t work” and “that’ll be a waste of time.” Is not every child different? I understand that many people have tried these options and have not benefited from it, but isn’t it my duty as a parent to ensure that EVERY possible option that is available to make learning easier has been explored for my child?

I love his teacher, personally, but there are some issues that are too bitter for me as a parent to swallow. I’m brand new to parenting a child with any kind of disability, and ADHD is probably small compared to many other issues we could be facing, but for me, it’s hard. It’s absolutely refreshing to be able to be in a group where I can vent and get advice from other parents going through the same thing I am. So thank you all, again, so much! Sometimes its nice just to get that slap on the shoulder that says, “I hear you, girl, I hear you.” smile

Posted by MammaMia on Apr 03, 2014 at 4:12am

Hi MamaMia!

Dysgraphia is certainly a possibility. My son has that and Written Expression Disorder. I didn’t realize the Written Expression DIsorder until he started writing assignments like you described (2nd grade for us, seems like a lot to ask of a 1st grader). My son had the same issue, he could tell me a great story, but he couldn’t immediately write it down afterward. Never could figure out where to start. It blew my mind and I had no idea how to help.

We have found in the almost 4 years since that allowing him to speak it and someone else scribe it (write it down) makes a HUGE difference. I hope to get him using Dragon Dictation in the near future, but we tried to set it up for him in 2nd grade and the process was too frustrating for him.

As much as I’d love to recommend that you ask the school to evaluate, I have found that your child has to be profoundly disabled to services and an IEP at that young age. My son’s writing issues were very obvious to me and to his teacher, but he was evaluated and denied, because the first grade expectation was pretty low and there wasn’t a large enough gap between his capabilities and that standard yet. By third grade, the gap was cavernous, he was evaluated again, and approved for special ed and an IEP.

I’ve fought many a teacher in the nearly 6 years since my son’s diagnosis. Some get it and some don’t. Some are open to suggestions, and others are not. Some will outright to refuse to give your child any sort of “special treatment” no matter how many times they’re threatened with legal action for breaching a federal legal document (IEP). Pay close attention early each school year and evaluate the teacher’s teaching style and willingness to help special needs kids. If it’s not a good fit, ask for your child to be moved to a more suitable teacher. Insist if you have to.

OT can be helpful for kids with handwriting issues (as well as sensory issues). Seek out a pediatric OT office in your area and schedule an evaluation. OT has worked wonders for my son (though not on his writing).

Here’s an article on dysgraphia that may help you further:

Hang in there! It’s really tough to get an adequate amount of help at school when they are this young.

ADDconnect Moderator & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on Apr 03, 2014 at 4:16pm

I firmly believe that the assignment to construct a 5-sentence “formal” paragraph is over the heads of most 1st Graders (even the really bright ones).

I have identical twins with ADHD (one more hyperactive & also with major dysgraphia; one more inattentive who has always had very neat handwriting & loved to color and stay within the lines).  I always requested in elementary school that they be placed in separate classrooms.  Luck of the draw made it so that year after year the hyperactive/dysgraphic student was placed in the classroom with the more rigid & demanding teacher. 

Fourth grade was the straw that broke the camel’s back where his teacher assigned multiple independent outside book reports and had a one page long, single-spaced list of all the requirements these essays done at home had to contain (along with certain specific requirements that were demanded of the parent—to provide meaningful corrections on the draft version…etc). 

Meanwhile, his 4th Grade brother had the teacher who just had them journal, free-flow, any topic they wanted.

If I had it to do over again, knowing what I know now (4th Grade was the year I figured out they had ADHD) I would have fought tooth & nail to get my hyperactive/dysgraphic out of what was, for him, these no-win situations.  It created lasting negative effects constantly being held to an arbitrarily defined much higher standard (these kids were in the same school after all, yet their teachers always had such very different standards). 

I did fight tooth & nail as soon as I knew what the problem was, and by then the principal was also concerned (this is where having an identical twin as the “control” comes in handy).  The principal had known these very bright, very well mannered, very adorable children since kindergarten and she, too, could see that hyper/dysgraph now hated school with a passion and was in a perpetual funk.  I was so relieved to find out the principal had already made huge strides to rectify the situation before I set out to demand something different for 5th Grade (their last year of elementary).  A new teacher was starting who had been a teacher for Gifted Kids and he was assigned to her.  I met with her personally at the beginning of school & brought with me a stack of articles on teaching kids with ADHD. 

I was furious at how Mrs. 4th Grade Rigid had gone totally ballistic over the fact that instead of paying full attention to her long math lectures he had resorted to folding origami cranes (bothering nobody)—he had figured out on his own how to do something so he could stand to stay in his seat and would make him better able to Pay Attention to Her Long, Boring Lectures.  Both my boys were in her math class since she taught the advanced math class.  Hyper/Dysgraph had solved his problem—getting in trouble for not staying in his seat in math class.  However, now he was getting in trouble for Not Paying Attention to Her—she’d catch him doing origami INSTEAD of listening to her (she had no idea this “fidget” was actually allowing him to focus & pay attention) and she’d snatch it away from him, call him out for not paying attention, then go ceremoniously put the crane in a ziplock Baggie she was collecting (to give to me later on en masse as “evidence” of his Failure To Do As He’s Told).  Meanwhile, identical twin is simply able to zone out and stop paying attention to her after the first 5 minutes but continue to just stare at her while thinking about Anything Else Besides Math and never once get in trouble for it.

Back to my 5th Grade beginning of year chat with the new teacher.  It went well.  Everything I had brought with me was exactly how she taught her classes.  By the end she looked up at me and told me her teaching methods were based on doing all the things that helped her as a kid—“So I must have ADHD then…my husband is always complaining about how I forget x, y, z…and…”

In one year she managed to completely reverse all the negativity that had built up over the years and hyper/dysgraph was back to liking school again.  And by then he was allowed to bypass writing out papers and could type them instead.

At 15, he still types any papers he can but his handwriting is much better now.  So is his drawing.  That’s what he’s been doing in his spare time in math class ever since 7th Grade (after getting in trouble in 6th Grade math for reading a book when he was done with his assignments; the math teacher apparently thought he should just be doing more math even though he was done)...It’s a never-ending battle…

Posted by BC on Apr 03, 2014 at 7:12pm

Exactly what I mean! I know medication is an option, and I AM working on it. However, why aren’t we looking into any of the options I suggested to make things easier for him? I don’t want to fight the teacher, but he deserves to at least have the opportunity to try some of the options I’ve laid out! I did send her an email asking if he can type his paragraphs which she grudgingly said we could, so there’s a plus! Im glad someone agrees that the structured paragraph is a bit much for a 1st grader. I know the kids are doing things faster than we did when I was in school but I know I didn’t learn paragraphs like that until I was in like 5th grade. Aside from that, I don’t even think he understands what a topic and closing sentence are! That’s why we have each other, have to have someone who has our backs so we can fight the good fight!

Posted by MammaMia on Apr 04, 2014 at 2:19am

At your school how many classes per grade are there?  We had three classes in each grade so we weren’t stuck with having to deal with the Mrs. Rigid’s in the universe.  Trouble is, usually don’t find out how rigid until the school year is well under way, and by that time it seems like it would take her being Mrs. Possessed By The Devil to justify the ordeal of changing classes.

In our district we can request certain teachers (no guarantee you’ll get who you want but they do try to accommodate that way).  So if I could rewind the clock I would have requested Whoever Is Not So Picky, Rigid, and Uber-Controlling for THIS one (the OTHER one can deal with whoever).  If you have more than one choice plan ahead for next year, ask around, find out what the teachers are like and make life easier for everyone (including the teacher)!!!

Posted by BC on Apr 04, 2014 at 3:32am

You are not alone! I was in your place 11 years ago! I did not read all of the above responses as I am off to work , so I am sorry if I repeat something. Who diagnosed your son with ADHD? There are many com orbit learning disabilities, the most common being dyslexia or what is now known as a language based learning disability. You need to request in writing that a psychological assessment be done by the school. If this is taking too long, here is Ontario they might not test until grade 4, so we paid for an assessment ourselves. We had the results for grade two, now we could have an individual education plan written up. This is a legal working document that can be changed at anytime and requires a teacher to follow its recommendations. You are right to want to work with the teacher and not against but I have had to go to the principal, superintendant and board trustee before to get what I need for my son. Take a parent advocacy program if you can! Many things can be added to an IEP that may help your son. A specific seating plan, cues to help stay on task ...something subtle like a post it note with a specific word placed on his desk or a touch on the shoulder, a laptop with word recognition software, ( so he can talk his homework out and have spellcheck). A scribe, less work ( if he can tell you he knows it in 3 questions, don’t make him do 10) more time on tests and projects, a quiet place to do work that requires more concentration, ie a cubicle, for all kids this is available when they need some quiet time. The use of an iPod to listen to music to ” drown out ” the noise around him. A fidget cushion to wiggle around in his seat, “peace walks” he can walk around the school occasionally ( after asking of course) to gather his thoughts, a fidget pencil, let him stand at his desk to do his work. The teacher needs to follow an IEP once in place. This document will follow him all through his education process and can constantly change. Oh and don’t rule out meds to assist. It just gives him time to think before doing. If it helps him learn and make friends, it’s not such a bad thing p, honest. It might take some trial and error, but you might find something that helps and has little notable side effects. If our kids have decreased dopamine levels and executive function disorder it needs to be treated medically in most cases and medication has been proven to help. Think insulin and diabetes or hyperthyroidism and methimazole, specific meds to treat specific medical conditions!

Posted by JulieBmotherof3 on Apr 04, 2014 at 3:26pm

Oh my gosh where do I start? This really is exactly the behavior my son went through. It wasn’t until I held him back for failing kindergarten that I had him tested for ADHD. I really was so worn out as a parent that I thought It was all my fault. But I found out that it wasn’t and I have him on medication for his ADHD. We had to try a couple but it didn’t take long before we found the perfect option for our son, Daytrana! You mentioned insurance was an issue but I actually went to the Daytrana website and signed up and they have a coupon that saves you a ton of money. I pay 15 dollars a month for medication that’s 250 bucks normally. Also, I have been where you are. ...I struggled with putting my son on medication but you Know what? It’s the absolute right thing for him and he also goes to special Ed classes for additional help with reading for an hour a day and he has been on the honor roll his entire 3rd grade year. The great thing about Daytrana is it’s a patch not a pill so he can take it off when he gets home from school and it has served it’s purpose. I completely understand all you are going through, there isn’t a parent on here that doesn’t I guarantee that. You need to do what’s right for you and your family regardless of the teacher. Take a step back and look at all the signs and what’s best for your child. You will figure it out and move forward. smile

Posted by SarahK on Apr 13, 2014 at 11:04am

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